Have you ever watched an infomercial? You can’t help but notice the overtanned, overenthusiastic, overcoked host who can’t wait to repeatedly demonstrate the practically-miraculous assets of their product, available for a limited time only for 3 easy payments of just $29.99. But have you ever noticed the audience? The host is always playing to a crowd, a crowd that’s just a little too into it. They’re hooting and hollering and applauding every third word. They ask deliciously leading questions like “Are you telling ME that for NO MONEY DOWN I could take that chamois home with me TODAY?” Those people are called clappers, and they’re paid to be there.
Eddie Krumble is a clapper; in fact he’s the clapper of this film, and if there’s anyone better in the whole wide world than Ed Helms to play him, I don’t know it and I can’t even imagine it. Eddie’s been through a bit of a rough time recently so he figured a move to Hollywood would provide the shake up he needs. But clapping doesn’t pay super well, and his only relationship outside of fellow clappers is with a gas station attendant, Judy (Amanda Seyfried), to whom he only speaks through a bullet-proof glass partition. Eddie’s mother calls him regularly after seeing one of this “shows” to critique his performance, and perhaps his product, but she’s the only one really paying attention until he catches the eye of a shameless late night talk show host who creates a nation-wide manhunt to find The Clapper. This little bit of notoriety embarrasses Eddie until it downright starts to ruin his life. When Judy suddenly disappears from the gas station, he agrees to ride his 15 minutes of fame, but only in order to find her. But he’s going to discover that late night television doesn’t exist to make love connections: this is going to be a shit show.
I loved Ed Helms in this. Eddie is a quirky character, a guy that would be easy to make fun of and yet director Dito Montiel stops short. I’m not sure Montiel knows exactly what to do with him aside from that, but casting Helms sort of lets him off the hook. And I love that the film is set in the dark, dirty corners of Hollywood, it’s seedy and scruffy and not remotely glamorous. And the film quietly exposes television, even the “reality” stuff, to be blatant manipulation. This is not the side of Hollywood we’re used to being presented, but this one is far more interesting, and actually kind of refreshing.
In all honesty, this is not a great film by any stretch, but I was tickled by Helms’ honest performance (and even by Tracy Morgan as his devoted clapper sidekick) and if Montiel didn’t always hit the target with jokes or satire, he landed closely enough to entertain me for 89 minutes. I like offbeat stuff, and this movie had a scuzziness to it that I found oddly attractive.